The poles are still one of them most unexplored ecosystems on our planet in terms of microbial genetic diversity. While marine microbes in this region are known to emit greenhouse gases such as dimethyl sulfide, not much is known yet about the molecular underpinnings of these globally important processes, nor how the microbes drive these processes. The Arctic Ocean is expected to be sea ice free in summer 2050 if global warming continues at the current speed. While the predicted impact on the predators at the top of the food chain in this region is serious, the phytoplankton at the base of the food web might be equally impacted with knock-on effects for the entire Arctic food web including the cycling of nutrients and gases such as carbon dioxide and dimethyl sulfide. Additionally, polar oceans are more sensitive to ocean acidification because of their higher capacity to take up atmospheric carbon dioxide. By sequencing the microbes adapted to the low-temperature ecosystems of the poles, researchers hope to learn more about the cellular mechanisms employed to thrive in these environments. The information will also be useful for comparisons of existing polar communities with those microbial communities that may replace them due to changing environmental conditions.
Proposer’s Name: Thomas Mock